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anxieties to escape punishment, or else the criminal condemned by human law to die, would merit deliverance, when he recoils from the instrument of death; and Satan would merit deliverance when he shrinks beneath his unutterable woe.
Dear young friends, sorrow for the consequences of sin cannot save you from those consequences. The blood of Christ alone can do it.
The apostle Paul tells us, that Israel who followed after righteousness, hath not attained unto the law of right
Wherefore? “ Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law."
How different is the case of the awakened sinner, when he embraces, not a crucifix, but the Cross ; when his eyes are by the Holy Spirit opened to behold the glory of God's plan of salvation; when by faith he perceives Jesus Christ suffering and dying upon the tree, and casts his sins upon the Saviour. Like Bunyan’s pilgrim, the burden falls from his shoulders, and he goes on his way rejoicing. Instead of looking with the eye of flesh upon an image, he gazes with the eye of faith upon “the living One,” who became dead, and is alive again, and who liveth for evermore. After such a sight of Christ, the ransomed man seeks no more to work out a righteousness of his own; he submits unto the righteousness of God.
Thus was Luther released from the terrors of the law which overtook him when he saw himself to be a sinner. That great reformer struggled long to save himself, but he was led by the good providence of God to study the Bible. There he beheld the cross of Christ; there he beheld the wondrous doctrine of justification by faith, and he became a new man. His soul was filled with peace; and along with peace was given strength to perform the noble work to which his Lord and Master had called him. Luther was a miserable man until from the cross of Christ joy beamed into his heart.
• If I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto me!” So spake the Saviour, in prospect of those agonies by which he was to make atonement for the sins of his people. The work which the Father had given him to do, was finished on the cross. When he died there, death was abolished, and the prince of this world cast out. Thus the cross became the grand attraction of the christian, the very standard of the followers of the crucified. “God forbid that I should glory,” said St. Paul,
save in the cross of Jesus Christ, my Lord.” Even angels desire to look upon the mystery of the cross, hovering around it in wonder and adoration ; while the redeemed from among men bless God for it to all eternity
The cross is, therefore, a fit symbol of christianity, a correct figure of the plan of salvation itself. But it was changed from a figure into an idol. A material image began to be used ; and that image was exalted to the place which Christ alone ought to have occupied. And those who thus perverted the gospel were given up to their own delusions. The worship of the representation of the cross was but one of the abominations of the mystery of iniquity, but it was a great one. Those who knew not, and cared not for salvation by Christ, regarded a crucifix with veneration. The spiritual was lost, and the material was
Before the time of Constantine, all the enormities which were afterwards gathered and preserved by the Romish church, were in full luxuriance. “ Pious frauds” were unhesitatingly practised by the corrupt clergy. The fanaticism of the Empress Helena, was a fit subject for them to work upon; and the pompous pretence of discovering the real cross upon which our Lord was crucified, was a successful expedient to enrich themselves by her credulity. Faith, love, and holiness, were set at nought, and the privilege of bowing before that wooden idol was eagerly desired. Thousands of pilgrims who never sought redemption through the blood of Christ, flocked to his imagined sepulchre, and adored the pretended instrument of his death. This fraud brought gold into the coffers of the church; but it was the occasion of much sin and misery. A sight by faith of the cross of Christ would have purified the hearts of those pilgrims; but multitudes saw with the carnal eye the pretended cross, and remained about its precincts to wallow in the very filthiness of sin.
See that Italian bandit! He has just been employed in the robbery of travellers ; and one brave youth who dared to wrestle with him has fallen by his stiletto. He is returning to his mountain retreat, bearing a portion of the spoil. There is a rivulet near an angle of the rugged road, with a broad piece of green sward curving in the bend of the stream. A wooden cross is
erected there ; and the robber, with fresh blood upon his hands, uncovers his head and kneels, muttering a prayer. Then, satisfied with his piety, he proceeds, quite ready for another deed of rapine and murder.
But here is a solitary cell in a gaol. The inhabitant has been convicted of crime. Multitudes of sins rise to his recollection. The terrors of God's law overwhelm him. He is visited by a messenger of mercy. There is no crucifix in the hand of the servant of God - no image is held before the eyes of the sinner, but blessed words from a holy book are pronounced in his ear, and the Spirit of God carries them home to his heart. blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin." " This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” The Spirit gives him faith, and and his faith lays hold of the cross. Penitence and humble joy, love of God and hatred of sin, are born within him ;- he is renewed in the spirit of his mind. He is banished from his country, and he owns the justice of his sentence ; but he is reconciled to God. Many are the temptations which assail him in the situation in which he is placed, surrounded by the vilest of human beings; but now he loathes the sin he formerly loved; and is kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. The religion of the crucifix renders a man easy in wickedness--that of the cross extinguishes even the love of iniquity.
How wretchedly misnamed Christianity is that system which excludes the cross as the ground of a sinner's hope for eternity; which reduces the Saviour to a mere man, who lived and suffered only as an example! If the poor Neologian or Socinian had but one glimpse of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, he would sink into utter despair under the idea that there is no Saviour. If God be a God of truth and righteousness, that system would condemn the whole world to destruction, as surely as the rebel angels are condemned. It is only because their eyes are blinded to their own character that men with such views in religion can escape the horrors of the lost for one moment. But they cannot always deceive themselves. He who once hung upon the cross shall appear upon his great white throne ; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him, except the blessed who are redeemed by his blood. There will be no denying Christ's divinity then; but a striving to flee from the lightning of his countenance, and crying to the rocks and mountains to fall and cover them from the wrath of the Lamb: but all shall feel in their most inmost souls that day, that Jesus Christ is God; and that because he died upon the cross as an atonement, therefore he sits upon the throne as Judge.
But it is not those merely who hold a false creed who despise the cross.
There are many despisers of it among those who are called orthodox professors. Every one who does not go to Christ for salvation, slights his cross. It is a dreadful thing to think lightly of him who shed his blood for man's salvation; to hear without emotion of the sufferings of Christ; to be unmoved when there is set before you the weight of that tremendous woe which love prompted him to endure that his people might be saved! If the love and the sorrow of Christ do not move your heart, nothing will move it until the flames of eternity are circling around you. Will you be careless then ? Can your heart endure, or can your hands be strong when the wrath of a slighted Saviour is revealed. Nothing will more readily provoke God to depart from the sinner than to see him look carelessly on the sufferings and death of His well beloved Son. “ It is a fearful thing for God and the sinner to part at the cross of Christ.*” But a hard heart and a careless eye when the agonies of that cross are before us, may tempt Him who rejoices in the atonement as the masterpiece of his wisdom and love to leave us there in our impenitence. If an earthly friend suffer privations and sorrows to benefit one dear to him, and is repaid with coldness and neglect, we think the ungrateful recipient of his favors the vilest of men. How is it that we are so little moved with the ingratitude of slighting the most mighty, the most affectionate, and the most self-denying benefactor that the world ever saw ? Man may think lightly of this ingratitude, but God treasures it up for righteous retribution.
It is for the enduring of the cross that Christ is now highly exalted far above all principality, and power, and might, and every name that is named both in heaven and on earth. From all eternity the Son was God, and as such he occupied the highest place
• This striking idea is borrowed from a clergyman's expostulation with his people on the hardness of their heart.
in the universe. He was one with the Father and the Spirit, and equal with them in power and glory. But his glory as King of his church, and Ruler of the earth is something different from this. He became united to human nature- he became a servant; --and then he carried that human nature up to God's right hand, and received from the Father the special government of the world which he had redeemed. We may illustrate this by supposing that three persons are united in the sovereignty of some vast empire, a province of which has revolted; that one of the united sovereigns leaves his throne for a time, and reduces that province to obedience; that he returns in triumph, dragging at his chariot wheels the leader of the rebellion, and receives as the reward of his successful toils the special government of the subdued and subjugated province-along with the glories and laurels of victory, in addition to all his former greatness. Thus the exaltation of Christ by the Father, in consequence of his sufferings unto death, does not prove that he originally held a place inferior to that of God; but that to the glories of the eternal Godhead are added the honors of a victor over sin and death; of one who has led captive the great enemy of God and man; and has earned, by toils, and sufferings, and blood, the kingship of the world he has redeemed-who from the cross, and by the cross, has risen to the crown.
So highly does the Father esteem the cross of his well-beloved Son! The glory of sovereign of the world is not too high a reward for his enduring it. It has glorified all the attributes of Godhead, justice, mercy, and wisdom, in particular ; and therefore God looks with delight upon the cross of Christ.
My young reader, what think you of the cross of Christ ? Is it the ground of your hope for eternity? Do you feel that unless Christ had died, you had been lost for ever? Do you glory in the cross? Do you perceive it to be the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation ? Is he who hung upon the cross precious to you; is he in your estimation the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely? Do you love to meditate upon the work of Christ, upon the compassion of Christ, upon the sufferings of Christ ? Do you count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus your Lord; that you may win Christ, and be found in him, not having your own righteousness